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Articles / 2008

Annual Go Red for Women encourages heart health
Stroke victim describes the value of a good fitness plan

Ventura County Star
Friday, 06/13/2008
By Rachel McGrath

Six years ago, at the age of 45, Simi Valley personal trainer and fitness instructor Diane Gonneau suffered what she describes as "a massive stroke" that left her paralyzed and unable to speak.

At the annual "Go Red For Women" luncheon in Westlake Village on Thursday, Gonneau, who underwent intensive physical and psychological therapy, spoke about how good health is something to be cherished.

"If it can happen to me, it can happen to you or your loved one," she said.

More than 150 people gathered at the Westlake Village Inn, many wearing the color red, to honor two heart surgeons from Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura — Dominic Tedesco and Lamar Bushnell — and to raise money for the Ventura County division of the American Heart Association.

The Go Red For Women movement is a national initiative founded in 2003 by the American Heart Association that aims to raise awareness of heart disease in women and encourage them to be more proactive about their heart health.

According to the Go Red For Women Web site, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, more than all forms of cancer combined, and strokes are the leading cause of disability. The goal of the movement, it says, is to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by 25 percent by the year 2010.

"Although we operate on over 200 hearts a year, every day in California 128 women die of cardiovascular disease," Bushnell told the audience.

"Although women develop coronary heart disease later than men, the outcomes for women are often worse," he said. "Education, awareness and prevention will save many more lives."

Bushnell said women are less likely to complain about pain, and that the symptoms of heart disease or an imminent heart attack are different in women than in men. Women's role as a caregiver in our society, often means they focus on taking care of other people first, he said.

Liz Adams, the executive director of the American Heart Association divisions in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, said the money raised at the Go Red For Women luncheon will be used solely for women's research and education.

"We partnered with the Best Places' organization and commissioned them recently to identify the heart healthiest cities for women, and Ventura County was number eight in terms of midsize markets, so that's a huge accomplishment," she said.

After lunch, guest speaker Sheila Cluff, 71, fitness expert and founder of The Oaks at Ojai health and fitness center, persuaded attendees to put some of what they'd heard into practice. She soon had everyone working off their food with a series of bending and stretching exercises.

"Knowing about it and doing something about it are two different things," she said, as she encouraged audience members not only to educate themselves about their current heart health and risk factors but also to set a realistic fitness goal and stick with it.

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